Three key differences between hardware and software based virtual studio systems for chromakey shoots.

The three major differences between software-based virtual studio solutions and hardware-based versions are: motion tracking, Live broadcast capability and price.

Motion Tracking

Hardware-based solutions with tracking use proprietary technology featuring sophisticated tracking heads on one or more of the cameras as well as customized computers, not to mention switchers, optional cranes and other pieces of equipment. The most ‘affordable’ entry-level version of these virtual studio systems starts at around $50k for a single physical video camera.

When it comes to 3D virtual sets, such systems require custom-made or customized 3D models. Some vendors sell preparatory converters to convert pre-existing 3D models. Some companies have a library of virtual sets from which you can choose and which they will customize for you... for an additional fee, of course. These customized virtual sets are normally integrated with the hardware systems by highly skilled (an inevitably expensive) systems engineers of the virtual studio hardware company. They usually install everything themselves at your location... which is very convenient, as well as reflected in their overall quote which should include the installation price.

A high-end virtual studio system requires a great deal of set-up tuning, maintenance etc. and has to reside in the particular location. To move it to another location requires the support and involvement of the company who produced it.

If you have a lot of moving camera shots in your project, and you can afford the steep price, this is the way to go. The major vendors of hardware-based virtual studio systems are Orad, Vizrt and Brainstorm.

Typically, only big budget productions and large organizations such as movie studios and major national TV networks such as CNN, ABC, CBS etc. can afford these luxuries. So, if you do not have half a million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, as well as an appropriate facility and crew of professionals to operate it, you may want to look into systems without tracking or even entirely software-based solutions.

CG4TV does design 3D virtual sets for these high-end virtual studio systems too, but because this typically involves exclusivity and labor-intensive customization of 3D models for these systems, the price is typically many times higher compared to the virtual sets with pre-rendered layered cameras which you can purchase and download in our online store at virtual-set.

Live Broadcast Capability

All high-end systems featuring tracked cameras typically provide the ability to do live broadcasts with chromakey. Systems without camera-tracking or with virtual tracking exist in the marketplace which also support live chromakeyed broadcasts. Their price is significantly lower because without all the equipment and the tracking heads needed for real-time tracking, you just saved a lot of money.

Virtual tracking refers to camera motions and tracks drawn within 3D environments (i.e. the virtual sets) without moving a real, physical camera. In this case, the use of a real-time 3D graphics allows users to control the direction and speed of virtual cameras in real time by means of a joystick or a mouse. All without a camera technician moving a physical camera. To check if a company has real-time 3D graphics, ask the sales rep to move around 3D objects or to change camera angles with a joystick or a mouse in real time. Most low-end system providers do not dispose of this technology.

By using a system with virtual tracking, users can save the costs involved in purchasing extra cameras and in maintaining a large physical studio facility. With the virtual camera tracking option, even within 100-200 sq. ft. of space, even long-range zoom-in shots can be dynamically achieved.

In the same way as the more expensive motion-tracking systems, these systems are typically also tied to a particular physical location. The facility however can be a lot smaller. Why? Because you do not need the space for all the fancy cranes and trolleys to physically move the cameras around. Darim and Tricaster are examples of such solutions. Prices start around $10K and average set up will cost around $20K.

We designed 3D virtual sets for these hardware solutions too. The layered stills from our online store work with them too. And if we provide you with a 3D model, you can use our virtual sets with system which provide virtual tracking. Ask us for a quote customized to the needs of your virtual studio set-up and projects.


Most affordable of all are software based virtual studio solutions. These are as mobile as it gets. Everything fits inside your laptop. Of course you still need appropriate lighting and a blue or green chromakey backdrop or wall. With a bit of skill, you can use our fly-in animation simulating a fancy crane swoop-in establishing shot and use pre-rendered 3D animated transitions from camera to camera to create a convincing illusion of high-end motion tracking.

Check out the tutorial: How to Composit an Animated Fly-in in Adobe AfterEffects

One down side of this solution is that it is technically challenging to use for LIVE broadcasts. Projects typically involve post production. If live broadcasting is not critical to your project, you can get very impressive results, provided you have or acquire a reasonable amount of video editing skills.

Even if you do not, we prepared a video crash course on How To Chromakey which teaches you how to assemble a video involving your talent and one of our virtual sets. We will even provide you with a few of our (watermarked) backgrounds free of charge. Also: you will love the price. You can obtain such a software-based vitual studio solution for less than a thousand Dollars and if you only have a little project, you can probably avoid buying such software altogether by using a 30 days free trial version.

Our preferred software is Adobe After Effects. Below find a list of major video editing software.

- Apple Final Cut Pro -- Video Tutorial
- Apple Motion

- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Adobe After Effects -- Video Tutorial
- Adobe Ultra

- Avid Media Composer
- Avid Studio
- Avid Pinnacle studio HD

- Eyeon Fusiom

- Grass Valley Edius 6

- Sony Vegas